Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Opens on National Mall

WASHINGTON, DC—The visitors—young and old, black and white—who came across the country and even from other nations to view the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial reflected the world the civil rights leader envisioned.

It was a warm afternoon; the calm before the storm. Hurricane Irene is expected to hit the Washington area on Saturday evening and, as a result, forced the cancellation of the long-planned official unveiling ceremony scheduled for Sunday morning.

But the memorial opened to the public this week, so the main attraction was still a go. Situated between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the King monument is a large stone boulder with a 30-foot tall sculpture of King that appears to be dissected from the middle of structure and thrust forward—personifying a 1963 King quote: “Out of a mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

Today, a family from Michigan, a man from Los Angeles, and people from throughout the South could be found exploring the four acre site, reading the 14 quotes etched in a 450-foot long, crescent-shaped granite wall and posing for photographs in front of King’s likeness.

UPDATE: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Jan. 13, 2012, called for the National Park service to work with the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation to fix a quote etched into the monument that was truncated in a way that changed its sentiment.

All photos by Arts Observer

The Jefferson Memorial can be seen in the distance across the Tidal Basin.

UPDATE, Jan. 13, 2012—The quote etched in the monument was adapted from a 1968 sermon King delivered two weeks before he died. King said: “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” The phrasing on the monument changes the sentiment of his original words. Plans to correct the quote are underway.

The monument was crafted by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin.

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